People’s preference for fruit
A LOOK CLOSE
Nilratan Halder |
January 22, 2022 12:08:35 a.m.
Apart from a few common native fruits, the Bangalees were not keen on farming and used to eat a variety of them. Even some of the local fruits were not grown systematically; only one or two fruit plants like grandpa, pomegranate were maintained on a corner of the lawn. Their most favorite were the banana, mango, guava and jackfruit which they used to tend to. On the compound of their farms or other suitable raised land which they called ‘vita’ (height) often unused for growing crops, people planted many of these trees. There were also kinds of date and palm orchards on these lands.
Yet the Bangalees were not known for their love of fruity treats except of course mangoes. This has changed over the years. As the country’s economy grew stronger, they discovered the taste and nutritional values of fruit. Also, the definition of food began to change as people became more educated. Gone are the days when food meant a bowl of rice and a piece or two of curry. With the decrease in the fish population, the Bangalee saying machhe-bhate (fish-rice) was in danger. At one time, therefore, people focused on managing dal-bhat (curried legumes) when the country faced a food crisis.
So there has been a paradigm shift in food choice and availability over the past two to three decades. Exotic fruits such as strawberries and dragon fruits have figured in local farming practices and on the dining table, if not widely, at least of a select segment of society. A new generation of moderately educated farmers have taken to cultivating not only the plums and sweet lime developed by the Germ Plasma Center of the Bangladesh Agricultural University, but also other exotic fruits. Even cashew nuts are now grown in parts of the Chattogram Hills.
The habit of food consumption has undergone a revolutionary change since the coronavirus forced people to confine themselves within their own four walls. One of the reasons for the wider choice of fruits during the period is the concern to remain immune to Covid-19. Social media and the Internet have made access to information simple and easy. At home, people were looking for a clue to stay in shape. There were recipes and food value advice galore. Sometimes there were too many and therefore confusing. But fruits from the lime family topped the charts. Thus, common lemon, orange, lime and pomegranate as well as all kinds of nuts were in great demand.
It is no wonder that the consumption of peanuts and even almonds has increased several times. Even the nut is available in the local market. The farmers were almost up to the task. In this case, the fruits that were not yet grown in the soil of the country should have been missing. But no, the fruit merchants have been too active in this regard. This explains why rickshaws laden with fruit race down the alleys to the doorsteps of the townspeople. Seasonal delicacies—both locally produced fruits such as mangoes, jackfruits, pineapples and imported apples, limes, oranges and pomegranates—herald their arrival at your doorstep. Fruits are so readily available these days unlike the days when one had to travel to Baitul Mukarram where only a handful of fruit vendors had the imported fruits available to them. Many of them have lost their luster, and even pomegranates have shrunk and dried out. The less said about apples or oranges, the better—many of them rot before they are sold. The price was therefore outrageously high.
Now it’s pomegranate time. Pickup trucks of these brilliantly colored fruits are seen on roads and on street corners. Then, of course, the fruit sellers have the best quality in their stock. But those sold on vans are much cheaper. This is true for all seasonal fruits. However, the fact remains that these exotic fruits are still beyond the purchasing power of the poorest strata of the population.
These expensive exotic fruits have made inroads not only in the market but also in popular psychology. However, local fruits such as guava, pig’s apple, amlaki or Indian gooseberry are not inferior to these fruits. A few of them are far superior in content. These fruits are cheaper and if some of them are not, it is because they are not grown on a large scale. Thus, if the focus is on growing these fruits on a large scale, the nutritional needs of the poorest people can be met quite easily.